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Draft betters Blue's odds on Collaros

Winnipeg now QB's most viable CFL option

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It's a shot Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters has heard before and will hear again. And it goes something like this:

The Ottawa Redblacks, the Canadian Football League's new entry, already have a juicier depth chart than the Bombers -- a franchise with 80-plus years of history and 10 Grey Cup championships, but with a lame-o record of 9-27 over the past two years.

Yes, the Redblacks solidified their quarterback position in Monday's expansion draft by grabbing veteran Kevin Glenn from the Calgary Stampeders and B.C. Lions' prospect Thomas DeMarco. But while that looks tasty to fans in Ottawa -- and probably has Bomber diehards cursing -- it's what Winnipeg's depth chart will look like in June, not December, that matters.

And so while there is hardly a consistent form chart to CFL free agency, Ottawa's moves should make one thing perfectly clear to QB Zach Collaros and his agent: If the Toronto Argonauts pivot wants a starting gig in this league -- providing the rumoured sniffs from NFL teams don't translate into a contract down south -- then his only option is here with the Bombers.

"Face value, I think (Ottawa) has their starting quarterback and backup quarterback under contract moving into next year," said Walters. "We'll see if that changes between now and Feb. 15 (when free agency opens), but it would appear it clears up the picture... for today, anyways."

Granted, there's nothing to stop the Redblacks -- or any other team already with its No. 1 gun -- from aggressively pursuing Collaros or the other notable CFL pivots heading to free agency -- Henry Burris, Drew Willy, Matt Nicholls and Josh Neiswander.

But if opportunity and financial reward are the two biggest nuggets for a free agent when the market opens, expect the Bombers to now be able to offer both to Collaros -- in spades.

The Bombers and Argos had apparently been in trade talks for Collaros during Grey Cup week, but that was put on hold. The Winnipeg coaching search was ongoing, the QB considered changing agents (but didn't) and his camp became tempted by apparent NFL interest and the prospect of testing the free-agent market.

Walters seemed cool Monday to the idea of dealing with the Argos right now for the right to negotiate with Collaros before the market opens Feb. 15.

"If we think we're in a fairly decent position come free agency then I don't know how much we'd be willing to give up to expedite the process a month or so," he said. "There's certainly value in that to get somebody under contract, but it's not just giving up any asset that we have just for the sake of talking to a guy who we think we'll be able to talk to in the middle of February."

The Bombers, like every other CFL team, lost three players to the Redblacks -- one import and two Canadians. Leaving Winnipeg are Wallace Miles, a receiving prospect the club hopes to be able to replace via free agency; veteran special teamer James Green and receiver Rory Kohlert, the only prospective free agent selected by Ottawa.

Interestingly, a CFL source told the Free Press late Monday Kohlert had already agreed to terms with Winnipeg and wants to remain here. That leaves the possibility the 25-year-old Saskatchewan product could wait until February and re-sign with the Bombers as a free agent.

In any case, with the Redblacks' draft in the rear-view mirror, Walters & Co. can now turn to two other items atop their to-do list: Rounding out Mike O'Shea's coaching staff and attempting to re-sign some of the 21 players -- not counting Kohlert and recently retired Pierre-Luc Labbe -- who are headed to free agency.

Some of those deals are believed to already be in place and could be announced as soon as this week. Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 17, 2013 D3

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